Scritchie-time with Hal!
Nope, these three aren’t related. Not at all. (Sammie, Saffron, and Sonnet.)
Mrs. Mack 5o5 handed me the package with a tear in her eye. “Open it.”
I knew what the box contained. Inside the cardboard, wrapped in tissue paper, was a beautifully finished small wooden box. . .
In the spring of 2000, five kittens were born to a wild mother in a small feral colony not far from here. At first we thought there were only four, as two of them looked almost identical from a distance. We could not leave them out there. They would live short lives and die tragically, or they would thrive and make yet more kittens. Neither solution was acceptable, so out came the humane traps. We caught two black and white Maine Coons, a calico, and a tiger. (The fifth proved elusive and unfortunately did meet a tragic fate.)
It was our first experience with feral kittens. We did a few things wrong, but they turned eventually. They would be the first of many.
Noah and his brother Sebastian came to live with us. Shelby did not approve, but she adapted eventually. Noah was a sickly baby; he almost died of pneumonia in those early weeks. He also was the more affectionate of the pair, perhaps because he required so much handling. He became our baby boy.
He was all eyes and ears. I swear they were born fully grown and the rest of him grew to fit them.
His voice was huge. In his younger years we would play a game in the morning while I dressed for work. He would stand at my feet and cry for attention. I would shush him, “quiet, you’ll wake up Mom!” He would respond more loudly. Lather, rinse, repeat until Mrs. Mack505 began to giggle.
Noah grew to be our kitten whisperer. When we would foster feral kittens, he would ignore them for weeks. Eventually he would spend an afternoon staring into their cage, and then they were done. Turned. All ready to go on to their new homes. He somehow knew when they were almost ready, and he would push them over the edge.
In later life, Noah became closely bonded with Hal. The two of them kept mostly to themselves and were always seen shoulder to shoulder around the house.
We came home from my Mount Washington trip to find Noah unwell. The cat sitter had done her job thoroughly, but he just wasn’t acting right. The vet found a fast-moving cancer.
I won’t dwell on the details. Noah crossed the Rainbow Bridge shortly after noon on July 19th, 16 years 2 months and 4 days after being born in my father’s garage. He was our sweet Baby Boy until the end.
“Open it. . .” Mrs Mack5o5 urged.
I didn’t need to open it. It’s a beautifully crafted (slightly oversized?) custom box for his ashes. I’d rather spend as little time on it as possible. She insisted, though.
And there it was. A diagonal partition dividing the interior into two compartments. Someday in the hopefully distant future, Noah and Hal will lie shoulder to shoulder again.
This would be a good place to end. The story arc is complete. It’s not the best eulogy, but I felt it was time to write something. It turns out there is more, though. Noah has a legacy.
It seems that all the time he spent with semi-feral Hal was a grown-up version of his kitten whispering. Hal has never fully bonded into our family. He’s a wonderful cat, but he has always remained aloof. He never completely trusted us until he lost Noah.
In the month and a half since Noah passed, Hal has turned to us for comfort. He has become more trusting. He seeks us out for attention, and he sleeps with Mrs. Mack505. As I wrote this, he jumped onto the bed twice, approached me, and let me scratch his ears. I’m all teary again. Noah may be gone, but he left us a new and improved Hal to remember him by. Thank you, baby boy.
Fifteen years ago, a lonely unwanted cat gave birth in a wood pile. The days were warm and sunny, and she soon brought her 5 charges out to frolic in the fresh air. She never allowed them to stray very far from her side because the world is a big scary place.
We began to notice them around 6 weeks of age. Momma was smart and protective and would spirit them away if we got too close.
But we have a humane trap.
They were tiny, scared, and fierce. There were two dark longhaired Maine Coon-ish ones. One was the self-appointed leader and protector, hissing and biting; the other had huge eyes and ears and was sickly. The only female was a cute orange calico. The fourth was a shorthaired tiger who looked completely unrelated.
The fifth kitten was too wily for the trap.
We read about taming feral kittens, and then we went about the process. There was lots of cuddling and hissing. It was the start of something big. Hundreds of kittens have passed through our home en route to loving homes of their own. The feral colony is managed and thriving under a private trap/neuter/release program.
Yesterday at work I broke my $1000 pen.
Two years ago when Jasmine was sick, we made multiple visits to the emergency vet. These usually involved an overnight stay and a scary bill. Each time I signed, I kept the pen. It was my own small rebellion against her illness.
Over time I accumulated a collection of cheap plastic pens in an assortment of colors with the vet clinic’s phone number on them. They came to be known around the house as my $1000 pens.
Most have disappeared into the depths of desk drawers, but the light blue one became special. It complemented my uniform nicely, and it became my spare pen for work. It has spent most of the past year in my shirt pocket or my day bag. Yesterday I broke it.
My instinctive reaction was sadness. This was Jazzy’s pen.
I quickly realized I was looking at things the wrong way. These pens are a symbol of the darkest time in her too-short life. Keeping them around doesn’t preserve her memory. It preserves the memory of her tragic illness and death. While I want to remember and cherish her, these are not the memories I need.
I disassembled the pen tonight. I salvaged the spring to use as a strain reliever on my phone charging cord. She always was good at relieving my stress. As I find the others, I will do the same with them. I may have spent the cost of a good used car acquiring them, but it is time to let them go.
Twenty two years ago a small grey cat was born in Rhode Island. Her owners didn't want her; a neighborhood tom had snuck over the fence and done unspeakable things to their prize-winning Himalayan. They gave her to a college girl, who quickly discovered she was not ready for kittenhood. Overwhelmed, she threatened to put her outside to fend for herself.
My then-future wife has never been able to abide the suffering of any animal. She rescued the kitten from almost certain death, taking it in at the risk of angering her landlord. Shelby won my heart simply by being a grey tiger kitten; I won hers by ignoring her. Curiosity may not really kill cats, but it sure drives them nuts. (The landlord was won over with money. Not really a cat person I guess.)
I would love to say Shelby was a special cat. In our hearts she certainly was and remains. In reality she was probably pretty average. An amazing thing happened, though. She had an incredible ability to win people's hearts. Soon my parents adopted a cat, then my sister. Over the intervening years we have had 8 more cats, my sister 4, and my parents 5. All have been rescued in some form or other. Dad has even adopted his own small thriving feral colony.
Shelby was our matriarch. She left us in 2006 after a long yet too short life. The torch was passed to Muffy, my parents' first.
Muffy came to the family from the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society in December of 1998. She was a stray and a street tough. The shelter guessed she was 3 years old; the vet estimated closer to 5. It took a long time for her to accept affection, but eventually she became the tiger-striped head of her own five-cat colony. She ruled with an iron paw, earning the nickname Tuffy Muffy.
Fifteen years have come and gone, and Muffy has been the Energizer kitty. She has weathered health scares; she's slowed and mellowed with age; recently she's spent most of her time in a warm spot in the kitchen.
And I've watched her age, lately with a heavy heart. We knew this day was coming. This afternoon I scritched her one last time and got to wish her a safe journey. Tomorrow she goes over the Rainbow Bridge.
Farewell, Muff. It's always too soon, yet it's time. Shel, Chang, Jas, Rockey, and Millie will be waiting to greet you.
I confess I was lazy this week, shooting mostly in full automatic mode with a bit of aperture priority when I was working with depth of field.
The 600si is a tank of a camera. I haven’t weighed it, but it just feels heavy in spite of its mostly plastic construction. Occasionally it would refuse to focus, but I chalked that up to the dodgy lens. Repeating the attempt always fixed the problem.
I shot a roll of Portra pushed two stops. I did this in order to shoot at the New York State Museum without a flash. It’s an incredible place. My primary attraction was the Fire Engine Hall, which contains the only known surviving Ahrens-Fox from New York City. It also showcases many of the major historic manufacturers who were headquartered in New York State.
The Fire Engine Hall is located next to Metropolis Hall. What would you expect where fire engines intersect with Metropolis?
It’s a shocking sight to the unsuspecting. This is not a model or a replica. Engine 6 was one of the first engines at the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. Seven members responded that morning; only three returned. I can stand in reverent silence here all day.
Around the corner on the edge of the Fire Engine Hall stands this memorial. Though lesser known and a late addition to the 9/11 exhibit, Ambulance 485 also suffered tragedy that day. Two paramedics responded, one returned. The ambulance survived in service although it still bears the scuffs and scars of that day.
In the Hall itself, this American LaFrance is a lost ancestor of the modern fire engine. The JO/JOX series were built immediately prior to WWII and showed the first steps between the classic styles of the 1930s and the more ergonomic designs of the 1950s. Production was interrupted by the war, and the more advanced 700 Series replaced them when production resumed in the late 1940s.
The Hall is difficult to shoot without a tripod. The walls and backgrounds are flat black. Even at 1600 ASA, shutter speeds were slow and depth of field short.
The museum is more than just fire engines. Make sure you see and ride the antique carousel upstairs.
For the end of the roll, we left the museum. This is Saffron, one of our current foster kitties. She and her two sisters are looking for the right Forever Home.
Lower Zone, a closeup from a demonstrator that visited the firehouse last week.
If you have the chance to pick up a Minolta 600si, I highly recommend it. If you are anywhere near Albany, take an hour or two at the museum. It’s free. You won’t regret it.
We promise to ease their suffering, and they give undying devotion in return. We feed them, shelter them, care for their health, and when the time comes we provide a merciful end.
It’s never as easy as it looks on paper.
When we lost Chang, I penned an eloquent and emotional post.
When Jasmine received her diagnosis, I cried out in pain.
We swore that she wouldn’t suffer. We would do all that was medically reasonable and enjoy the time we had left together, however short. The pills have been annoying, but she held up well. We still had fun together. Sunbeams, catnip mice, and moths have made the passing months wonderful.
Until this weekend. We watched her fail inexorably. We cuddled and comforted. I don’t have another eloquent post in me right now. We promised not to let her suffer.
Too short. She should've had another decade. She's the youngest of our colony and should have seen Beth graduate. The universe has cheated her and us, but we promise not to let them suffer. Rest easy, baby girl. There's no need to fight it anymore.
Jasmine left us peacefully around 11:00 this morning. Our hearts are heavy. . .